It takes a lot of guts to live through traumatic sexual abuse, so I want to congratulate you on your healing journey. You are reinventing your inner strength so that you can get back everything that was robbed from you by your aggressor. It takes time to do the work, identifying your issues, pinpointing your triggers, and replacing negative attitudes with ones that serve you better and align with a positive, fulfilling life.
Reinventing your inner strength starts with remembering who you are. Your true authentic self can be accessed through art therapy, using exercises that are both easy and fun.
Choose art materials and a medium that appeal to you, whether it’s charcoal pencils, pencil crayons, paints or markers, paper or canvas. Find a comfortable place to work, where you can allow yourself to get messy. Think about who you are at your core, what you most want to express, and begin to create. There is no one judging or grading this work of art. This is only for you. When you are finished, you have the added option of writing down a description of the work, and writing journal entries on what came up for you while thinking about yourself. Self-portraits are often helpful in putting a physical manifestation to your thoughts and feelings.
This is my favorite art exercise that I’ve done with friends and clients to help them to get in touch with their feelings and discover what can make them feel fulfilled. Take three pieces of blank paper and write number 1 on the first one, then draw how you feel right now. It can be an abstract, words, numbers, symbols, realism or anything that you think describes how you are feeling at this very moment.
Be spontaneous and don’t spend more than five minutes to complete the picture. Then take another piece of paper and write number 2 on it and draw how you would like to feel if everything was perfect in your life. Again, be as spontaneous as you can. Finally, take the last sheet of paper and write number 3 on it and this time, draw your biggest obstacle or challenge that is preventing you from getting to number 2. Then spread all the drawing out in front of you and look at the three feelings that you have drawn to describe your life now, your life as you want it to be and what is stopping you from getting there. This exercise can provoke deep emotions as well as epiphanies to help you to heal. For example, one of my clients drew an apple with a bite taken out of it for her number one, a whole apple for number 2 and a heart to symbolize love for number 3. When I asked her to define her feelings through her art, she said that she felt like a piece of her was taken away and she wanted to feel whole, but giving and receiving love was stopping her from reaching that ultimate goal of wholeness that would make her feel happy.
Vision boards are a wonderful way to project positivity onto your future and open yourself to new vistas and options. To do this exercise, you will need a poster board, magazines, scissors, glue, pen and paper. Use the pen and paper to make a list of things you’d like to see in your future, and then create them visually with cut out images from magazines. This could be anything from a happy family sitting down together for a meal, or a safe workplace that you would love to go to everyday. You don’t have to limit yourself in any way. Have you always wanted a house by the beach? Go ahead and put that on there! This is the time to imagine yourself in the future doing exactly what you want to do to, resulting in maximum joy. There are no limits to the blissful fulfillment that you can imagine for yourself and eventually experience in your life.
Read more about my upcoming book here.